Sana Amanat is a renowned comic book editor and the co-creator of the breakthrough Muslim-American female comic book superhero, Ms. Marvel.
Growing up in overwhelmingly white suburban New Jersey, Amanat was pained and felt like an "outsider" as one of the only Muslim families in the community, and often the only person of color in her class. Amanat's identity as a Pakistani-American Muslim (her parents were recent immigrants) in an otherwise overwhelmingly Caucasian community led her to find solace in an unlikely place: on the pages of X-MEN comic books, where she found friends and inspiration in the "otherness" of the superhero characters of those stories.
Just as Amanat felt "different" and "misunderstood," the exiled characters of these comics looked to their differences for strength. This was a revelation to her, and has become Amanat's guiding principal.
As a child and budding teen, Amanat was touched and inspired to find a "strong black beautiful woman, a man in a wheelchair" on the pages of comic books — characters who were being celebrated as people who mattered, and people who were strong. Above all else: people who could help defend others and be a guiding light.
Much of the work she's been charged with creating at Marvel is about reaching out to girls and women — bringing them into the world of graphic storytelling, and helping them to feel at home there. Amanat values inclusion above all else, and her current work now as Marvel Comics Director of Content & Character Development allows her to continue to work for inclusive storytelling for all readers, regardless of their race, age, gender, or beauty.
Amanat's crowning achievement has been the creation of "Ms. Marvel" in 2014, a series featuring the first-ever Muslim-American comicbook superhero, "Kamala Khan," a normal teenage girl who happens to be Muslim. The groundbreaking series immediately skyrocketed to success — going into an unprecedented seven printings in its first year alone.
Amanat created Ms. Marvel with the help of her writer, G. Willow Wilson, who has worked on the comic books, Air, Cairo, Mystic, and novels like "Alif the Unseen" and "Butterfly Mosque."
"I was always a fan and had wanted to work with her," Amanat said of Willow. "So when the loose concept of Ms. Marvel came up, she was the first person I had to reach out to."
Of the "Kamala" character, Amanat explains: "This character is so close to my heart, and of such value in our storytelling culture, because she is first and foremost a real girl. I wanted her to feel accessible to everyone — to be a comfort and a joyful inspiration to women of all colors and backgrounds who are struggling with high school, insecurities, identity, and growth. We wanted to help girls see they are 'normal' and worthy, no matter what they look like or where they come from. This character is a celebration!"
Learn more about Amanat's story by watching her exclusive "Be The Hero" video above.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Archival in Video); ©Deb Aoki, http://mangacomicsmanga.com/